So I got to hear Josh this morning at Bethel. It is rare now that I’m not in a pulpit on Sunday mornings and so it is a good treat when as someone told me this morning, I can be a “pew filler.” It’s good to get to go to worship and just be and not have to do. Josh preached from 1 Kings 19:1-15 this morning and he really brought out the larger story of the text and the battle that was waging between Elijah and Jezebel. There is an ever present battle raging on and it’s easy to get discouraged from time to time. It struck me the question that the voice of God asked Elijah – “What are you doing here?” It reminded me of the little smart girl troup on the show Phinneas and Ferb and the beautiful little girl who is in love with Phinneas who asks always very loving and innocently, “Whatcha doin?” in such a sing song way. What are you doing here? Did you think life wasn’t going to be a topsy turvy battle? Did you think that you’d win this skirmish and then it would all be done and set and steady?
Josh reminded me this morning of two of the things that Dad did when we were growing up. When my mom went back to school to get her master’s degree in counseling to be an elementary guidance counselor, Dad became a self-proclaimed Mr. Mom for a while. On the way to school in the mornings when we were in elementary school he would sing us John Denver, particularly “Sunshine on My Shoulder.” Now you should know that Dad is not a singer. LOL. If you have ever been in one of his churches and the mic was on during the singing – you know that even though Dad enjoys singing, it’s the joyful noise kind. And yet on the way to school, he would sing us these John Denver songs. Not worried about how he sounded or anything about pitch, but just concerned with showing us how much he loved us. He also would pick us up from school every day and we would get an afternoon snack. When Josh asked the congregation this morning where they thought he picked up our snack from someone wisely said McDonald’s. Heck that would have been more nutritious. We actually would stop at a local gas station. Oh, the nutrional value. Josh remembers getting Tahition Punch (the least likely nutrional thing around – please I hope our dentists are not reading this but I do think it explains a lot) and Butterfingers. I would always get NuGrape, the sugariest grape soda I could find. So yes we had purple and red mouths and who knows how we didn’t each weigh a gazillion pounds, but we knew we were taken care of and loved.
As preacher’s kids we had a pretty good sense of this whole good versus evil thing. I mean hello – who didn’t watch Star Wars and know the difference between the Jedi and the Dark Side. We didn’t really like the Wicked Witch of the West or her flying monkeys and we knew we were safe in God’s house. There was a 7th Heaven episode one time that showed Matt hanging out in the church, in the sanctuary and they had to consult some PK’s on that one because it was so real to who we were. We knew who was sick or in the hospital, we knew what it meant to pray, we knew what it meant that our Dad was a pastor to this congregation and that meant he was here, there and everywhere.
The thing that stands out to me about my Dad was what a good example he was of being a real example of someone trying to live a faithful life. He’s not perfect by any means, but he sure as heck never claims to be. He can tell crazy stories about all sorts of things and he’s not someone anyone would ever call mamby pamby. He is as strong and fierce and no holes barred as one can get and still follow Christ. And that’s what I appreciate and love the most about him. His integrity. That he will say what he believes and stand by it whether it’s popular or not. That he speaks the truth even when it’s super annoying, a little too blunt, and sometimes scarily too honest. Right now he’s at the College World Series in Omaha and he spent the night on the asphalt last night, the fifth person in line to get tickets for today’s Carolina and Clemson games. Poor games are rain delayed right now but hopefully he’ll get to use those good seats soon. What’s funny is that in line yesterday he met this scalper. Dad doesn’t really meet strangers – he starts talking to them, much to the usual annoyance of the rest of us. Anyway, so somehow the man found out he is a minister and so today the man walks up to him and starts trying to talk to him and break in the line. See here’s the thing. Dad may be a minister, but some dude breaking into line when he’s slept on the asphalt all night – that’s not going to cut it. So he went toe to toe with the guy. Thankfully security came over and asked the guy if he had slept there all night and he of course said no so he told him to go to the back of the line. You see Dad’s not one of those Christians that is just going to sit idly by and let someone cut in the line. Yeah, yeah, I know about the whole talents thing or the workers thing with one group only working a little while and getting paid the same and that not being fair or the prodigal son stuff and I’m not really talking about those times. What I’m talking about are the times like Elijah where we feel beat down and we’ve had enough and we say okay, we’re out – we’re done. My Dad as crazy as he is, let’s me know that we’re not out, we’re not done, and we keep on going. That there is a battle ever raging before us and we keep going searching for guidance and leaning on the word of God. Because the greater story is not yours or mine, it’s God’s.
I’m thankful that God gives us those loving reminders and touchstones to look to whether it be John Denver on the way to school or sugary snacks in the afternoon or the example of one who keeps on living it and battling it out no matter the adversity. This morning we sang the song, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and those lyrics can say it better than anything I can ever write. Much more than the love of our earthly fathers whether biological or otherwise, God’s faithfulness provides for us and abides in us always.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Y’all’s faithful prayers have made a huge difference in my life. I know that it is those prayers that is given me the strength and energy to play with the kids and keep on keeping on. I can’t say how humbling it is to know that there are so many people praying for me. It actually kind of freaks me out. But I am hugely thankful for it. Your faithfulness will not be forgotten. All of my love to each of you and happy father’s day, padre! Here’s Great is Thy Faithfulness by Chris Rice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k1WhFtVp0o